Is God a djoker? First, we’ve had the historical irony that during the cowboy days of the Wild West, banks feared masked robbers. Over the last two years they’ve called the cops on maskless customers. Then we had the sleight of hand by Big Pharma where for the first time in history, the blame for the failure of a pharmaceutical product was shifted onto those who never took it. This was followed by the insistence that people who feel well must be tested and if the result is positive, they must self-isolate, and all close contacts must also be tested. Now we have the surreal inversion of the drugs in sport equation. The reigning champion, world No. 1, among the greatest tennis players of all time, one of the greatest contemporary athletes across all sporting codes and quite possibly the healthiest human being on the planet, is being prevented from defending his Australian Open crown because he refuses to take a drug with an unknown long-term safety profile. An astonishing 445 athletes, by definition the fittest people, have suffered cardiac arrest or serious injury following Covid vaccination and 261 have died. EU regulators recently warned that frequent booster shots could adversely affect the immune system.
The claim that Novak Djokovic poses a threat to Australia’s public health is false to the point of being risible. By 13 January, Australia had 4,235 new Covid cases per million people per day, one of the highest rates in the world, 111 per cent higher than the UK and 79 per cent higher than the US. The failures of Australia’s current Covid policy settings pose a threat to Djokovic’s health, not the other way round. In the UK, the rate of infection per 100,000 people of the double-vaccinated is more than twice that of the unvaccinated in several age cohorts.
A new study supported by the Centres for Disease Control in the US concluded: ‘clinicians and public health practitioners should consider vaccinated persons who become infected with Sars-CoV-2 to be no less infectious than unvaccinated persons’. In remote Antarctica, two-thirds of 25 staff at a scientific research station caught the virus from one infected person. All were fully vaccinated, passed multiple PCR tests and were quarantined before entry to the station. Professor Ehud Qimron, a leading Israeli immunologist, wrote an excoriating letter on 6 January calling on the Israeli health ministry to admit failure: ‘a respiratory virus cannot be defeated’.
The nine-time champion was invited by Tennis Australia to defend his title. He cooperated with them and the Victorian government to ensure his exemption was valid to get an entry visa. The byzantine rules and jurisdictional confusion between regulators, state and federal governments, tennis authorities and airlines created an unseemly mess that reflects poorly on the government’s competence. Denying Djokovic a visa would have been unfortunate, but a clear-cut decision would, at least, have averted this sorry fiasco. The government didn’t want to own the opprobrium of that decision, so they allowed the situation to drift into an international public relations disaster. Concerned more about the disaster at the voting booth in a few months’ time, they have whipped up hysteria and climbed so high up the moral high horse that they cannot dismount for fear of falling flat on their face.
Tennis players seem to believe they can comply their way out of tyranny. Shame on them for not speaking up in defence of a champion of champions of their sport. Pace Martin Niemöller, someone should ask them: When they come for you, will anyone be left to speak for you? Maybe they just fancy their improved chances of adding a major title with the defending champion absent. Problem is, victory without Djokovic in these circumstances will see the halo displaced by an asterisk, the trophy tarnished and the tournament diminished.
Shame on the Professional Tennis Players’ Association and the International Tennis Federation for failing to stand up for Djokovic. Both should have made it clear that banning Djokovic would mean the end of the 2022 Open and call into question its future. The foundational principle of a national healthcare system is compassion. The stubborn persecution of Djokovic and the wholesale stigmatisation of the unvaccinated, all in the name of protecting that system, shows just far we have moved from compassion. The true test of tolerance and inclusivity is looking out for people with opposing points of view. He is not trying to impose his values and choices on others. They are the ones either joining in the mob hysteria or failing to speak out. Sporting codes were at the forefront of boycotting apartheid South Africa. Tennis players are complicit in medically unjustified and morally abhorrent vaccine apartheid.
Shame most of all on the Morrison government hell-bent on making an example of Djokovic in a panicked ploy to deny the failure of their narrative and policy. As even a BBC analysis made clear, Alex Hawke’s decision is essentially political. They are terrified that a twice-infected but unvaccinated Djokovic, leaping and bouncing all over court to a record 21st majors’ triumph, will bring to a shuddering halt the constantly escalating Covid terror. To be fair, though, Morrison’s foot-in-mouth prowess is the equal of Djokovic’s athleticism and the two are evenly matched on the charm scale.
The visa was initially cancelled after Djokovic asked: ‘So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have … where at 4 in the morning I can’t call director of Tennis Australia, I can’t engage with anyone from the Victorian state government through Tennis Australia’. After the stinging defeat in court on Monday 10 January, the government shifted the grounds of its second visa cancellation on Friday 14 January as Djokovic’s legal team pointed out in the emergency hearing that evening. With Djokovic scheduled to play on the opening day the following Monday, the delay in announcing the cancellation until Friday evening smacked of petty-minded vindictiveness. Accepting that Djokovic ‘poses a negligible individual risk of transmitting Covid-19’ to others, Hawke nonetheless considered ‘his presence may be a risk to the health of the Australian community’. Because Djokovic has a ‘well-known stance on vaccination’, his very presence could whip up more anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia, therefore his participation is not in the public interest.
And there we have it. Djokovic must be kept from our shores not because he could infect others but because he is a visible reminder of the failure of lockdowns and vaccines. Team Morrison wants to ensure that, like the Ardern Government in NZ, there is only a single source of Covid truth in Australia.
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